Hogs and Coyotes Offer Hunting Opportunities

By Bob Humphrey

At first, the scene before me didn’t register. Acre upon acre of what had obviously been lush green fields was now a sea of overturned soil. Assuming it was the work of machinery, I naively asked my hunting companion, “What are they planting there?” He chuckled and replied, “That’s hogs.” Disbelief turned to awe as I noticed the somewhat random pattern of tilling. Staring at the devastation left me speechless.

Like many who live outside their range, I viewed feral hogs as sort of a novelty, targets of opportunity that occasionally showed up while pursuing deer or turkeys. I was vaguely aware they sometimes chewed up food plots and could be a nuisance at corn feeders, but I had no idea just how widespread and devastating their influence could be on the landscape.

Several months later, I was snowshoeing through a northern deer yard when I came upon scattered tufts of deer hair. Following the clues, I found parts of a leg bone, more hide and hair and faded remnants of blood in the deep snow. Abundant canid tracks soon revealed the culprit.

Hogs are not the only problem facing modern deer managers. Also once a novelty, Eastern coyotes have now elevated their status to that of a serious deer predator. Only recently have we begun to realize their impacts. And as populations of hogs and coyotes continue to grow in range and number, their combined impact is becoming greater than the sum of its parts.


Domestic European hogs were introduced to North America in 1539 in Florida. Sportsmen later brought Russian wild boars to the United States in the late 1800s. Both hog species eventually escaped or were released into the wild, ultimately resulting in three types — feral hogs, wild boars and hybrids. In the early 1980s, their range was limited largely to the extreme Southeast, Texas and parts of coastal California. By 2004, they had expanded into most southern and midwestern states, and much of California and Texas. Since then, populations have continued to grow across their range.

Coyotes came east on their own and with help. After wolves were extirpated from the eastern United States and southern Canada, Western coyotes expanded eastward, first appearing in western Ontario in the early 1900s and in New York in the 1920s. Along the way, they interbred with remnant populations of Eastern timber wolves, creating a larger, more robust predator. They arrived in Maine around the late 1960s and early 1970s, expanding into eastern Atlantic Canada, and later spreading southward in a wave that continues to this day. Meanwhile, a second front advanced eastward, initially from Arkansas and Louisiana. They combined with escapees from dog-training pens in the Southeast. Southern and northern populations converged during the mid-1980s in the central Appalachian mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, and coyotes are now common across most of the eastern United States.


Feral hogs present several problems. According to the Quality Deer Management Association’s 2010 Whitetail Report, the estimated annual agricultural damage from feral hogs in Texas alone is $52 million, and the annual cost to control feral hogs is $7 million. In the Southeast, they can do significant damage to commercial pine plantations. Extrapolate all that across their range, and the costs become staggering.

And it’s not just agriculture. They tear up food plots planted for deer, turkeys and other wildlife. They can also take a substantial bite out of natural foods like hard and soft mast, leaving that much less for more desirable species. Add to all that the possible spread of disease to livestock and humans and it presents a sobering scenario. If you don’t have issues yet, it’s just a matter of time. Coyotes represent a more direct threat to whitetails. In the mid-1990s, coyotes were killing an estimated 20,000 deer in Maine — as many as hunters. Coyote numbers and their influence have since grown substantially. Healthy deer populations can withstand a certain level of predation. But a combination of several severe winters and coyote predation has reduced deer populations across much of northern New England (and possibly elsewhere) to the point where predation is now holding deer populations below a level where they can compensate for it.

Meanwhile, research from Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina shows a similarly alarming trend. In a South Carolina study area, coyote predation accounted for as much as 84 percent of all deer mortality, including 62 percent of fawn mortality, and the statewide deer population has declined about 30 percent since coyotes arrived. Coincidence? I think not. A southwestern Georgia study showed the percentage of deer hair in coyote scat almost doubled during the fawning season, resulting in fall fawn-to-doe ratios of about 0.5. And Auburn University researchers found coyote predation to be the leading cause of fawn mortality in suburban areas of Alabama.


Fortunately, solutions exist. In fact, if you look in the mirror you’ll find the biggest one staring you right in the face.


The status of coyotes and hogs varies from state to state, ranging from game animals to nuisance species. In any case, they’re fair game at some point and good sport when they are. And at least in the case of hogs, they can be decent table fare. I know a fellow from Maine who makes a decent coyote jerky.

Seasons in most states are long, often year-round, with liberal or unrestricted bag limits on bag, tactics and equipment. Predator and hog hunting is far more than a way to extend your hunting season, though that’s certainly a positive consideration. Both often require many of the same tools and techniques as deer hunting — like stealth, marksmanship and scent control — providing a means to hone your hunting skills between deer seasons. In addition to the thrill of the hunt and more time spent outdoors, you can take some satisfaction in knowing you’re helping to alleviate a significant environmental problem.

Hog hunting can take several forms. Where baiting is legal, they’re just as likely to show up at a corn feeder as deer are, making them fine targets of opportunity during and outside the deer season. Spot-and-stalk hunting is another tactic that is especially popular with bowhunters. Hunting with dogs makes for great sport in concert with man’s best friend.

Coyote hunting similarly takes several forms. Some hunters sit over bait stations, often at night, where legal. Calling is another popular and effective method, and often a chance to practice some long-range shooting. And running dogs can also be a productive and exhilarating method.


Trapping represents a viable and in many cases more effective way of controlling coyotes and hogs.

Several methods are used for hogs, the most common typically involving some type of baited live trap. And they range from rudimentary to elaborate. I’m aware of one trapper in Illinois who has a live camera feed and remote control trigger capability on his cell phone. He can view the trap, and when he thinks there are enough hogs in it, close the gate remotely with the push of a button. Trapped hogs are then dispatched or transported to high-fence hunting enclosures.

Coyote trapping takes a bit more in the way of woodsmanship. Coyotes are savvy, quick learners and can be a challenge even to experienced trappers. Sadly, anti-hunting and anti-trapping sentiments have driven down demand for and price of furs, and as a result, trapping is becoming something of a lost art. Populations of coyotes and other furbearers (particularly raccoons) are ever increasing and having an increasing impact on deer, turkeys and countless other game and non-game species. Fortunately, there are still dedicated individuals who ply the trade and continue the tradition. If you’re not experienced, you’re far better off leaving the job to someone who is.

At the least, allow trappers on your properties. It’s a win-win situation. They are often more than willing to help out a landowner in need. They get an opportunity to ply their trade, and you get the benefit or reduced predator- nuisance populations.

If you’re not already a trapper, consider giving it a try. It’s an opportunity to enhance your woodsmanship skills while spending time outdoors. It’s also a great way to learn, and teach your children about the outdoors, wildlife and predator-prey relationships.


In the final analysis, feral hogs and coyotes are far more than a nuisance. They represent a significant impediment to deer and wildlife habitat management. Fortunately, solutions exist if we take a page from the school of business and view it as an opportunity rather than a problem.